What you put in is what you get out
When approaching disease, we need to look at the root cause – autoimmune diseases are part in parcel with inflammation – we need to find why the inflammation exists. Identifying the underlying sources of inflammation and immune reactions can help you to start healing your body from the inside out. These usually include stress, hidden infections, food allergies or sensitivities, toxic exposure, genetic predisposition, nutrient deficiencies, and leaky gut.
Food is a powerful way to reduce inflammation and calm the immune system. No diet is a quick fix, as every person is different, with different factors affecting individual health. A combination of elimination diets, supplementation and herbal support is often used effectively to manage and find greater understanding of your disease.
Because there is such a strong link between gut health and the immune, digestive and brain system health – and even inflammation – the popular autoimmune diets like Autoimmune Paleo and anti-inflammatory diets recommend eliminating foods that can be gut irritants and exacerbate dysbiosis in the gut and contribute to SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). Once the body has an autoimmune reaction, it can sometimes be necessary to remove a wide variety of potentially inflammatory foods for a short time and then reintroduce to test the response. The idea is similar to the theory behind the GAPS protocol but geared toward addressing autoimmune issues instead.
While you cannot control your genetics or whether or your past, you do have an immense amount of control over your diet and lifestyle. By removing the foods that contribute to a leaky gut, gut dysbiosis (the wrong numbers, relative quantities, or types of microorganisms typically growing in the wrong locations in your gut), hormone imbalance, and that stimulate inflammation and the immune system; you can create the opportunity for your body to heal. By addressing important lifestyle factors and changing your focus to eating nutrient-dense foods that support optimal gut health (and optimal health of your gut microorganisms), that restore levels of important nutrients and provide all of the building blocks that your body needs to heal and properly regulate the immune system, that help resolve inflammation and support organ function, you create an environment in your body conducive to healing.
Where to start letting food be thy medicine
- Eat a whole food, anti-inflammatory diet. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods including sources of omega-3 fats, red and purple berries (these are rich in polyphenols), dark green leafy vegetables, orange sweet potatoes, and nuts. Add anti-inflammatory herbs, including turmeric (a source of curcumin), ginger, and rosemary, to your diet daily. Eliminate inflammatory foods such as refined, omega-6, and inflammatory oils, including corn, soy, and safflower oils.
- Check for hidden infections. These include yeast, viruses, bacteria, and Lyme. You will want to work with a Functional Medicine practitioner to identify and eliminate these infections.
- Check for hidden food allergies. Again, your Functional Medicine practitioner can do this with IgG food testing.
- Test for Celiac Disease. This is a blood test any doctor can do.
- Test for heavy metal toxicity. Mercury and other metals can cause autoimmunity.
- Fix your gut. About 60 percent of your immune system lies right under the single-cell-layer lining of your gut. If this surface breaks down, your immune system will get activated and start reacting to foods, toxins, and bugs in your gut. The easiest way to begin healing your gut involves eating a whole food, anti-inflammatory diet and removing gluten and other food sensitivities, as well as eating fermented foods and taking probiotics.
- Implement supplements. Nutrients like fish oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, and probiotics can help calm your immune response naturally. Also consider anti-inflammatory nutrients like quercetin, grape seed extract, and rutin.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise is a natural anti-inflammatory. You don’t have to go to the gym, run on a treadmill, and pump iron to stay in shape. Just start moving around more. Go for walks with your friends or family. Go out and do some gardening. Play Frisbee in the park with your kids. Pick up a tennis racket and just knock a tennis ball around. Anything you can do to get out and move your body can be considered exercise. So don’t think that you absolutely have to go to the gym to get fit. Just use your body more.
- Practice deep relaxation. Stress worsens your immune response. Calming techniques including yoga, deep breathing, biofeedback, massage to reduce stress and anxiety to promote relaxation.
- Sleep for 8 hours every night. The research is clear: Lack of sleep or poor sleep damages your metabolism, causes cravings for sugar and carbs, makes you eat more, and drives up your risk of numerous conditions from diabetes to autoimmune disease. Getting enough sleep and sleeping well are essential for vibrant health and reversing inflammation.